Maintaining a Body-Positive Fitness Focus

In "The Body" chapter of  The Little Book of Bettie: Taking a Page from the Queen of Pinups, there are two Bettie-inspired workouts -- the Pinup Power Pose Workout (strength & cardio) and the Bettie Page Body-Weight Workout (calisthenics – Bettie's fave!). Here are the tips from that chapter on how to keep it body-positive when you do these routines or any time you exercise. Enjoy!

body pos tips from little book

Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being

Feeling sad, mad, critical or otherwise awful? Surprise: negative emotions are essential for mental health

sad bettie for article.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

A client sits before me, seeking help untangling his relationship problems. As a psychotherapist, I strive to be warm, nonjudgmental and encouraging. I am a bit unsettled, then, when in the midst of describing his painful experiences, he says, “I'm sorry for being so negative.”

A crucial goal of therapy is to learn to acknowledge and express a full range of emotions, and here was a client apologizing for doing just that. In my psychotherapy practice, many of my clients struggle with highly distressing emotions, such as extreme anger, or with suicidal thoughts. In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture's overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.

  ~Most or all of the images used for this article appear to be by an artist tagged AKG14~

~Most or all of the images used for this article appear to be by an artist tagged AKG14~

In fact, anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” says psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

Meaningful Misery
Positive thoughts and emotions can, of course, benefit mental health. Hedonic theories define well-being as the presence of positive emotion, the relative absence of negative emotion and a sense of life satisfaction. Taken to an extreme, however, that definition is not congruent with the messiness of real life. In addition, people's outlook can become so rosy that they ignore dangers or become complacent [see “Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?”].

Eudaemonic approaches, on the other hand, emphasize a sense of meaning, personal growth and understanding of the self—goals that require confronting life's adversities. Unpleasant feelings are just as crucial as the enjoyable ones in helping you make sense of life's ups and downs. “Remember, one of the primary reasons we have emotions in the first place is to help us evaluate our experiences,” Adler says.

neg emot pop art sad more.jpg

Adler and Hal E. Hershfield, a professor of marketing at New York University, investigated the link between mixed emotional experience and psychological welfare in a group of people undergoing 12 sessions of psychotherapy. Before each session, participants completed a questionnaire that assessed their psychological well-being. They also wrote narratives describing their life events and their time in therapy, which were coded for emotional content. As Adler and Hershfield reported in 2012, feeling cheerful and dejected at the same time—for example, “I feel sad at times because of everything I've been through, but I'm also happy and hopeful because I'm working through my issues”—preceded improvements in well-being over the next week or two for subjects, even if the mixed feelings were unpleasant at the time. “Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being,” the researchers found.

Negative emotions also most likely aid in our survival. Bad feelings can be vital clues that a health issue, relationship or other important matter needs attention, Adler points out. The survival value of negative thoughts and emotions may help explain why suppressing them is so fruitless. In a 2009 study psychologist David J. Kavanagh of Queensland University of Technology in Australia and his colleagues asked people in treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to complete a questionnaire that assessed their drinking-related urges and cravings, as well as any attempts to suppress thoughts related to booze over the previous 24 hours. They found that those who often fought against intrusive alcohol-related thoughts actually harbored more of them. Similar findings from a 2010 study suggested that pushing back negative emotions could spawn more emotional overeating than simply recognizing that you were, say, upset, agitated or blue.

neg emot pop art mad.jpg

Even if you successfully avoid contemplating a topic, your subconscious may still dwell on it. In a 2011 study psychologist Richard A. Bryant and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales in Sydney told some participants, but not others, to suppress an unwanted thought prior to sleep. Those who tried to muffle the thought reported dreaming about it more, a phenomenon called dream rebound.

Suppressing thoughts and feelings can even be harmful. In a 2012 study psychotherapist Eric L. Garland of Florida State University and his associates measured a stress response based on heart rate in 58 adults in treatment for alcohol dependence while exposing them to alcohol-related cues. Subjects also completed a measure of their tendency to suppress thoughts. The researchers found that those who restrained their thinking more often had stronger stress responses to the cues than did those who suppressed their thoughts less frequently.

neg emot pop art sad yellow blue.jpg

Accepting the Pain
Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings (see "Breathing Techniques for Less Stress & More Energy") or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. I often tell my clients that a thought is just a thought and a feeling just a feeling, nothing more.

If the emotion is overwhelming, you may want to express how you feel in a journal or to another person. The exercise may shift your perspective and bring a sense of closure. If the discomfort lingers, consider taking action. You may want to tell a friend her comment was hurtful or take steps to leave the job that makes you miserable.

You may also try doing mindfulness exercises to help you become aware of your present experience without passing judgment on it. (See "How to Live in the Now" for a mindfulness primer to get you started.) One way to train yourself to adopt this state is to focus on your breathing while meditating and simply acknowledge any fleeting thoughts or feelings. This practice may make it easier to accept unpleasant thoughts.

neg emot sad bettie pink and yellow pop art.jpg

Earlier this year Garland and his colleagues found that among 125 individuals with a history of trauma who were also in treatment for substance dependence, those who were naturally more mindful both coped better with their trauma and craved their drug less. Likewise, in a 2012 study psychologist Shannon Sauer-Zavala of Boston University and her co-workers found that a therapy that included mindfulness training helped individuals overcome anxiety disorders. It worked not by minimizing the number of negative feelings but by training patients to accept those feelings.

“It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether because to live is to experience setbacks and conflicts,” Sauer-Zavala says. Learning how to cope with those emotions is the key, she adds. Indeed, once my client accepted his thoughts and feelings, shaking off his shame and guilt, he saw his problems with greater clarity and proceeded down the path to recovery.

***

This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared in Scientific American Mind magazine. Tori is an Atlanta-based writer, psychotherapist, and mind-body health & fitness expert. She is the owner of Bettie Page Fitness, author of  The Little Book of Bettie, and editor of the official Bettie Page social media pages and blog.

Compassion vs Competition!

Guess which mindset improves body image and disordered eating?

  ~Photo by Bunny Yeager~

~Photo by Bunny Yeager~

Do you ever compare your appearance to that of other women? (Okay, trick question because there’s no way you can be human and never compare yourself to anyone, especially in our era!) But if you find yourself doing it a lot, choose to view other women with compassion instead.

A new study by researchers at the University of Waterloo is the first to “demonstrate that trying to cultivate compassion for others—by [mentally] wishing them to be happy and free from suffering— may, in turn, benefit one’s own body image and eating attitudes,” according to university reps.

The researchers instructed one group of women choose this mindset when they found themselves making negative judgments about their looks in comparison to another woman. Meanwhile, another group was instructed to think of ways they might be superior to the other women, and a third group was told tried to distract themselves to deal with the comparison urge.

The compassion mindset was the most effective approach – it not only reduced the degree to which women compared themselves to other women in terms of appearance, eating, and exercise habits, but it also improved their body satisfaction and reduced disordered eating behaviors.

So, you know what to do: Go forth and choose compassion over competition!  Not saying this will be easy (it won’t), but it’s absolutely doable and worth it. Look at it as an ongoing practice rather than an achievement – again, you’re simply cultivating this mindset, not trying to master it. You’re not going to feel compassion from your heart every time, so don’t judge yourself when you mentally wish someone well through gritted teeth and with inner resistance. 😉 BUT you can make the choice to go with the higher mind focus – whether you’re browsing your IG feed or IRL – and keep coming back to it each time that green-eyed monster tries to rear its head.

With love,

Tori

Bring on the Bettie! Channeling the Queen of Pinups

The traits we love about Bettie are so vivid, it seems like we can reach out and grab some for ourselves – and we can! Here’s how.

bring more bettie logo.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

Almost 60 years after Bettie Page blazed a trail with her brief but mighty modeling career, countless women worldwide still emulate her iconic look: the style, the expressions, the poses – and of course, the bangs. The reasons for this go far beyond simple aesthetics. There is undeniably something about Bettie – lots of things, actually! – and we want to tap into those qualities that make her so timelessly special.

Perhaps she’s like a mirror, showing us the possibility of being our most joyful, passionate, brave, creative, sensual selves. When you look at Bettie, those qualities are so vivid that they almost feel tangible, like you can reach out and grab some for yourself. There’s a sense that they are freely available to us too, with the reminder that Bettie gave us just by being unapologetically herself.

  For many Bettie fans, she resonates so deeply because we see ourselves in her.

For many Bettie fans, she resonates so deeply because we see ourselves in her.

She is truly the embodiment of joy, freedom, confidence, and fully expressed, shameless beauty and sexuality. By intentionally calling on the various traits we admire in her, we can cultivate them in ourselves. This is part of what inspired my company Bettie Page Fitness, home of the first-ever body-positive fitness videos. Each move in the workouts is based on a Bettie pose, and I encourage viewers to embody some of Bettie’s empowering and health-promoting physical characteristics, including her stellar posture (the “Bettie lift” as I call it), balance, and core strength. In the spirit of Bettie’s strong example of self-acceptance, these workouts encourage viewers to respect and accept their bodies, and to exercise because it feels good and is good for us, rather than for punishment or to conform to a specific standard.

Many of Bettie’s poses were what psychologists now call “power poses.” These are big, open poses that take up a lot of space – versus being closed off and hunched over with arms crossed, for example. (I think of power poses as symbolically claiming one’s place in the world.) Researchers have found that power poses can boost confidence and body image, reduce stress, and increase creativity. By infusing our workouts with moves similar to hers, we can further encourage those effects.

  Bettie doing the Wonder Woman stance... a classic power pose..

Bettie doing the Wonder Woman stance... a classic power pose..

As with the physical context, we can also choose to be like Bettie in any other way we choose. Some Bettie fans talk about having a “What would Bettie do?” sort of thing going on. By sometimes moving and living like she did, we can experience the feeling of being fully alive and in charge of our bodies and lives. When we need more courage, authenticity, playfulness, sensuality – whatever it might be – we can summon it from our muse, who thankfully has left us with endless examples of what those qualities look like. She’s an archetype of self-actualization, really. Whether in your workouts or any other area, ask yourself how you might “bring more Bettie to it.” It’s sure to be a fun experiment, and it might just change your life.

~To shop Bettie Page Fitness videos, yoga mats & more, click HERE!~

The Odd (But Awesome) Way Happiness Is Contagious

It turns out there’s a solid reason for the term “infectious joy”—research confirms happiness really can be caught.

bettie and friends beach.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

In a 20-year longitudinal study of almost 5,000 people that was published in 2008, researchers at Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego found evidence for “clusters of happiness.” The sunny emotion was shown to spread across social networks, extending up to three degrees of separation—as in, it can spread to the friends of your friends’ friends. Neighbors seem to be most influential—if one becomes happy, the other is 34% more likely to follow suit; an upbeat friend who lives about a mile away boosts your happiness odds by 25%; spousal influence is 8%; nearby siblings: 14%.

“Emotional contagion is deeply rooted in our evolutionary past,” says study co-author Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, a physician, sociologist, and director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University. “One can think of emotions as a primitive form of communication: it is of use to me to notice and copy your fear, disgust, anger, or happiness.” Indeed, these less pleasant emotions are contagious too, so just be mindful of this subconscious influence we can have on each other’s moods.

A study published in PLoS ONE showed that you can pick up someone’s joy just by watching someone else watching the happy person (like a happiness middleman!), meaning our moods can affect people we don’t even know—and theirs ours, and without our awareness. 

A joy transfer can take place even if you’re not physically near the person: a study that Christakis co-authored in 2014 found that emotions also spread among friends on Facebook. “When people make a positive change in their lives by being or acting happy or optimistic, they not only benefit themselves but many others – and those others are generally people they care about,” Christakis says.

~This article by Tori Rodriguez was originally published by Prevention Magazine.~ 

Your Body Knows Best!

So learn to listen to its cues for guidance about how to treat it, instead of all that monkey-mind mental chatter (which is often infused with negative messages from ourselves and others) that can leave us feeling lost, defeated, and confused. In upcoming posts, I'll explain the importance of body awareness and offer tips about how to hear what yours is telling you. Check back soon! 

  ~Photo by Bunny Yeager~ (If you want a censored version for sharing, see our FB or IG)

~Photo by Bunny Yeager~ (If you want a censored version for sharing, see our FB or IG)

What Is Body Positivity All About?

It’s not just about loving how you look! Consider this your BoPo primer.

bettie body pos.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

In a trend we hope will continue to take off, recent years have seen a clear shift among celebs in how they talk about their bodies. Stars like Kristen Bell, Ashley Graham, Serena Williams and Chrissy Teigen, for instance, have stood up to body shamers and proudly accepted their so-called "flaws." These displays of body love reflect the body positivity movement, which advocates accepting and appreciating yourself as you are.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't aim to improve your health if that's a goal for you–after all, that's the point of my Bettie Page Fitness videos. (Humblebrag: They're the first-ever body-positive fitness vids!) It just means you try to do it from a place of self-love versus not-enoughness. "The goal is to repair your relationship with yourself–to not only find acceptance for your physical body, but to claim and love every part of you internally," explains Kelly U, a blogger whose raw, vulnerable approach to sharing her journey to body acceptance and recovery from an eating disorder has not only helped her find healing but to help her fans feel less alone and more accepted.

  ~Bettie in Pigeon Pose, clearly loving her body!~

~Bettie in Pigeon Pose, clearly loving her body!~

Still, a lot of body positive content ends up overdoing the "love your looks" aspect, and while that can be important, it ironically reinforces the appearance emphasis that we already get slammed with nonstop. "While there are many pros to social media–inspiration, connection, community–it can also shred the web we weave for body positivity," says Kathryn Budig, a yoga teacher and author of the recently released book Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance! The endless stream of carefully selected, highly edited photos can trigger compare mode and make us feel inadequate.

Body positivity is about so much more than the external. Instead of just loving what you look like, try focusing on these four things instead.

1. What your body can do.

From keeping your heart ticking to getting you through a workout, your body quite literally lets you live. "Being able to wake up every morning and run and lift and do all of the things my healthy body allows me to do is the ultimate gift," says Cherry Dollface, a model and YouTube star known for her empowering and encouraging way of interacting with fans. Good health is a major priority to her, especially because she has heart condition, and keeps the emphasis on what her body is capable of instead of how it looks. "I finally realized that my life is more important than a few dimples or droopy bits–and that my body is a miraculous, strong, beautiful system."

  ~Bettie looking proud of her progress with the Splits! We know, we know... square the hips.~

~Bettie looking proud of her progress with the Splits! We know, we know... square the hips.~

2. How your body feels.

Budig teaches her yoga students to focus on how the postures feel, not how they look. This simple lesson is "wildly applicable to all aspects of our life, but especially to those situations that involve the physical body," she says. "It's a simple way to reconnect to the amazing ability of our physical bodies when we concertedly take the time to nurture it." When you're in a pose, mid-run, or even lying in bed, shift your attention to how vibrant, strong or relaxed you feel. "Then give yourself a supportive pat on the back for how responsive and amazing this physical body is."

  ~Move your body however it wants to be moved!~

~Move your body however it wants to be moved!~

3. What your body has been through.

Embracing body positivity might help some women discover a sense of pride about scars and stretch marks because of what they represent, while others may find ways to heal long-held body shame. "I was teased my whole life for being too skinny, and I grew up as many women do feeling insecure and uncomfortable about my body," says Cherry Dollface. After she began interacting with large numbers of women on her channel, she realized that lots of women have unresolved issues from childhood and teen trauma about their bodies. "This is something that practically every woman deals with, and I realized that I have a voice that I can use to help them feel better in their skin."

  ~Our bodies endure so much -- like the gall bladder surgery that caused Marilyn's scar that she's flaunting loud & proud! If you don't quite love your body yet, at least try to give it the respect it deserves and take care of it the best you can.~ 

~Our bodies endure so much -- like the gall bladder surgery that caused Marilyn's scar that she's flaunting loud & proud! If you don't quite love your body yet, at least try to give it the respect it deserves and take care of it the best you can.~ 

4. What your body needs and wants–and what it doesn't.

This means honoring your body's basic needs for things like movement, food and sleep, as well as respecting its limits. "For me, body positivity means actually caring for my body, not trying to change it to make it appear better," says Kelly U. She learned that she was using food and her body as coping mechanisms for internal struggles, and would try to make up for shortcomings through cycles of starvation, binge eating and over-exercising. Now, she views exercise as a self-loving activity that keeps her healthy rather than a way to maintain a perfect physique. "All in all, I prioritize my mental health and maintaining a healthy relationship with myself–that is body positivity to me."

  ~Bettie giving her body that thing we all need more of: SLEEP!~

~Bettie giving her body that thing we all need more of: SLEEP!~

(This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on WomansDay.com)

Bettie's Beach Yoga Shoot!

Bettie's yoga practice often showed up in her modeling poses – especially in this shoot with Bunny Yeager! 

bettie yoga collage.jpg

BY TORI  RODRIGUEZ

Having created an entire fitness video based on Bettie’s yoga-inspired photos, I’m always thrilled when I come across another one of these gems, so a certain shoot she did with Bunny Yeager is especially satisfying in that regard. It seems as if Bettie was drawing upon yoga for lots of different poses that day – I like to imagine that she was enthusiastically practicing during that time of her life, and so these moves were top of mind when it came to striking poses for Bunny’s lens. Take a look at yogi Bettie!

  Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)  

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)  

  Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

  Standing Wide-Legged Half Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Standing Wide-Legged Half Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

  Monkey Pose/Yoga Splits (Hanumanasana)

Monkey Pose/Yoga Splits (Hanumanasana)

  Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

  Flipped Dog (Camatkarasana) ~ with elements of Wild Thing and Upward Bow/Wheel Pose

Flipped Dog (Camatkarasana) ~ with elements of Wild Thing and Upward Bow/Wheel Pose